2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Adam Cooper
Internship Location: Earthspired, The Mrida Group
Journal Entry #1:
Hi! My name is Adam Cooper and I’m a rising third year student studying Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law. This summer I am interning with The Mrida Group, specifically with their brand, Earthspired. Earthspired works to provide market linkages to farmers in rural villages throughout India, ultimately empowering sustainable development. I have been focusing on the marketing of Earthspired products to Indian consumer bases, while also working to effectively convey the importance of consuming that is socially responsible and environmentally friendly. The work has been incredibly fruitful, albeit challenging at times. Trying to convey the mission of Earthspired can be very difficult, as development work is not always a simple, feel-good story. Furthermore, understanding cultural differences in all the work I have done has not been easy, and will be something I continue to learn.
Yet, the most challenging aspect of this experience thus far has been adapting to the culture of India, specifically New Delhi. The energy of this city is incredible, but at times it can be quite the sensory overload. Loud cars, often crowded streets, and intense smells of street food are consistent throughout the day. This constant “craziness” has led to some rather uncomfortable situations. Whether being extremely squished in the corner of a subway car or sweating through the intense heat, there are many moments throughout each day that are physically discomforting.
As I experience these uncomfortable situations though, I have found that the physical is only a biproduct of the mental. In short, how I mentally approach any situation is just as important, if not more important, than the physical reality of that situation. When my mental state is in control, I can focus my thoughts on something that is consistent, relaxing, and comforting: my breath. In focusing on breathing, I can remain calm in these intense situations, realizing any discomfort is not permanent.
This important lesson has had far reaching implications already. My mindset is everything, and if I can have a positive mindset in both my everyday life and my internship this summer, I can find value and meaning in any experience.
Journal Entry #2:
As my internship has progressed, I have begun to take on more varied tasks, including preparing the teaching notes for a case study on The Mrida Group. This project has been incredibly interesting, allowing me to work directly with a professor in writing these notes. I have also expanded my social media marketing research, and interacted with various social media influencers in trying solidify partnership deals. The work is constantly changing, which is both exciting and a bit disorienting at times. Perhaps the biggest challenge I have been faced with is knowing how to prioritize my time on any given day. Although an 8-9 work day seems like ample time to achieve many goals, managing my time across various projects always seems to be quite the challenge.
Journal Entry #3:
This entry was written in two parts: first, while finishing my last few days in India and second, after arriving back in New York.
In the final days of my internship, I have begun to reflect on my experiences, considering what I have learned, what challenges I have faced, and how I ultimately have learned from this experience. The lessons are numerous, spanning everything from learning how to navigate a new culture to understanding what rural development means. Indeed, my learning experience has been both professional and social, both in the workplace and in everyday occurrences. This duality has been incredibly valuable, giving me the ability to learn in a variety of situations.
Often, my experiences abroad have given me access to something crucial: perspective. New cultures, people, and experiences have shown me another look at similar practices. Yet, this summer was about a different word: awareness. Instead of learning about different perspectives, the new environment offered me the ability to look into myself, becoming aware of my reactions to the situations around me. The uncomfortable situations that this summer brought forced me to become deeply aware of how I react when not in my comfort zone. In the workplace, I had to engage with different hierarchical structures, understanding professional relationships in a new light. Beyond work, I had to become comfortable with different social norms, everything from spacing in conversations to how to eat (only with the right hand!). Yet, because all these experiences were so different from those that I had had in the United States, I had a unique opportunity to examine my own behavior in these situations. Through this self-reflective process, I was able to identify how best to respond to these situations.
Thus, this summer provided me the opportunity for deep and meaningful reflection, something often lacking in my hectic life in the United States. Through this reflection, I learned an incredible amount about myself. I will try to maintain this awareness throughout my life in the United States, allowing myself to be completely present in each situation in my life, appreciating everything around me.
As I reflect upon the first half of my internship, I realize that much of my time was spent simply orienting myself with how The Mrida Group functions. Furthermore, understanding the process of rural development is a difficult task, one that I will continue to do throughout the rest of my internship. I had always thought that rural development was a difficult pursuit, but working with The Mrida Group has truly shown me that the details of rural development are incredibly challenging to deal with. Trying to understand how my work is affecting people in rural villages in India is practically impossible, yet absolutely imperative to my work. Thus, one of my main goals for the remainder of my internship is to focus on maximizing my ability to understand those populations which I’m working with.
Furthermore, my experiences in New Delhi have been amazing. Navigating new cultural norms and embracing new experiences has been an incredible experience. Comparing my old habits with those that I have developed here has been so interesting, and I’m intrigued to see what other comparisons I will draw once I return to the United States.